A DIFFERENT ADVENTURE
A Different Adventure
Boasting landscapes ranging from tropical coastal jungles and sierras, dominated by the Andes Mountains and the everlasting snow-capped peaks; a millenary culture in the raw, and its condition as the birthplace of one of the richest cuisines on the face of the earth, Peru is attracting an increasing amount of attention and interest from major tour operators worldwide.
It’s certainly said this still mysterious, quasiuntapped country is quite a strong magnet that draws scores of visitors with first-string surfing options in the Pacific, eye-popping views of the snow-capped peaks and the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, the journeys through the Amazonian jungle, the mysteries of Nazca and Paracas, the stilt houses on the Titicaca Lake, the adventure of reaching through the clouds to Machu Picchu or the glimpse at the deep canyon of Colca with a chance to watch the humongous condor, the local bears or the seals.
Anyone might wonder where this country stood just a few years ago now that the huge media organizations single it out as a top destination in 2010, including British magazine Wanderlust and their American peers Real Travel, National Geographic and Travel & Leisure. In the meantime, the Inca Path is considered one of the top 10 adventure travels in the world, while The Economist says Peruvian cuisine ranks among the twelve finest on the planet. For its part, Archeology magazine labels Señor de Úcupe as the greatest archeological discovery of 2009.
There’s no doubt this is an unmatched destination when it comes to enjoying breathtaking natural scenery and the value-added possibility of a firsthand look at a genuine and living culture whose millenary roots remain intact.
A four-hour drive from historic and modern Lima is the starting point for a grand tour that will surely take longer through the cities and coastal towns all the way to Paracas, home to the name-like mysterious culture that developed there in 700 B.C., famous for its mummification techniques, skull surgeries and motley fabrics featuring geometric and natural forms.
This is one of those travel destinations that experienced travelers –a dry-behind-theears sybarite– wants to have in the bag.
Peru is no doubt an unbeatable destination when it comes to enjoying its exceptional natural environments and the value-added choice of watching a genuine and living culture whose millenary roots remain intact
Paracas is a National Park and has a few highly interesting archeological sites, some of the country’s finest beaches, cliffs packed with natural formations, like the Cathedral and such attractions as the Chandelier or the Trident, a 120-meter-long, Nazca-style hieroglyphic .
There’s abundance of seals, turtles, dolphins, condors, penguins, flamingos and pelicans, an eco-friendly fancy hotel (Doubletree Paracas) and plentiful options for kitesurfing, sandboarding in the Ica desert, boat trips around the beautiful Ballestas islands, visits to the traditional pisco bodegas and airborne tours to Nazca.
The Peruvian shoreline is one of the most sought-after spots among surfers from around the globe because of local windy conditions that make it perfect for world championships. There are wellknown beaches like Mancora, Punta Hermosa, Punta Rocas or Cabo Blanco, and Chicama, on the north, which is highly coveted by surfers for its long rolling waves. This grand tour allows for a number of interesting combinations. One of the most successful ones is the visit to Piura and then move on to Chiclayo, only to find the Huaca Rajada Archeological Site some 35 kilometers farther. This place is home to one of the top discoveries of the 20th century: the tomb of the Señor de Sipan, the largest burial site of the Americas, whose gems and treasures are shown at the National Museum of Sipan Royal Tombs.
The list of wonders is long as travelers move inland. Machu Picchu and the staggering Inca Path are two of the best-known locations. Yet, there lies also the Colca Canyon –one of the deepest in the world and dominated by a volcanic range– where the condor flies high and the descendants of the millenary Collagua and Cabana ethnic groups settled down long ago with their ancient rituals, artistic traditions and customs.
Right here –as it’s increasingly becoming commonplace in Peru– visitors will find top-class lodgings, like the Casitas de Colca, a set of 20 well-equipped private cabanas that coexist in perfect harmony with nature, a genuine getaway of peacefulness and luxury.
The Titicaca Lake, where as the legend goes the first Incas emerged, combines the excellence of its natural scenery and the surprise of finding the Uros –a community that lives on some 60 floating islands– as well as the inhabitants of the island of Taquile with their
guardian wives in tow. The interest in the area has accrued thanks to the implementation of communitarian tourism and such choices as Titilaka, a set of 18 suites located in a private peninsula.
The Amazonia –one of Peru’s best-known regions, covering nearly 60 percent of the country’s total surface– harbors a considerable chunk of the planet’s untapped woodlands. Its entire territorial extension literally exploits the jungle’s vital energy in terms of wildlife and floral wealth. This is the land of the jaguar, the puma and the ocelot, of monkeys and guacamayos, of alligators, tapirs and anteaters, and it’s also home to communities that hold on tight to their millenary cultural expressions.
For many, the best way to scour this neck of the woods is aboard a deluxe cruise from Iquitos, a city known as The Amazonian Pearl, which is also the entrance to the Peruvian northern jungle from its boundaries all the way the depths of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the country’s largest protected area which is also known as the jungle of the mirrors because of the neat reflection of the foliage in the water.
This vast region is outfitted with very comfy inns and lodges built in the heart of the Amazonian lavish green, let alone an array of boat rides and other options it has to offer.
The Manu National Park, Puerto Maldonado –with its own airport and its boondocks charms– and Chapapoyas to the north, the capital of the Amazonas province and home to the millenary Chacha culture. There are also enigmatic archeological ruins on the premises, like the pre-inca Kuelap fortress –penciled in as Machu Picchu’s younger sibling. All in all, they stand for great allures the Peruvian Amazonia has to offer.
The heritage richness of Cusco, Arequipa, Huanuco and Puno; Caral Supe, the oldest city of the Americas, or Chan Chan, the majestic clay citadel, are also major must-sees.
The good numbers the Peruvian travel industry has put on the board in recent years speak volumes of how the country has been growing. Major world-class hotel chains have set up shop and there’s increasing international airlift from the Lima airport –one of the South American hubs. Indeed, Peru is many countries in one, a mixture of cultures, landscapes and climates, modern and very ancient locations. It’s now more than ever before within the reach of those willing to watch it. No wonder it’s catching on that fast.
According to Peru’s tourism authorities, the rebound of this industry must help reel in little more than 2 million visitors and over $500 million worth of revenues by the end of the year only within the gastronomic sector
Although Peru is blessed with over a hundred archeological sites and 80 percent of the incoming tourism is cultural-oriented, gastronomic tours are also on the rise –as much as 5 percent of incoming travelers– driven by the increasing demand for the local cuisine with s fusion of contributions made by Asian, European and African immigrants, and those hailing from over 3,000 years of indigenous culture.
In 2009, the Gourman World Cookbook Awards went mostly to Peru: Gaston Acurio, 500 Years of Fusion, published by the El Comercio newspaper, was recognized the World’s Best Cookbook; the winner in the Best Restaurant Guidebook category went to Lima, 40 Restaurants, 40 Spaces, with forewords penned by Ferran Adria; Cusco, The Cooking Empire, was handpicked the Best Culinary History Book; Peruvian Potato, History and Recipes, walked out with top honors as the Best Translated Cookbook; and Peruvian Chicha, A Beverage, A Culture, was chosen the Best Book on Beverage History
Inca archeological site in Moray, Cuzco.